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Re: Mathworks-hosted GPL'd software

From: Jaroslav Hajek
Subject: Re: Mathworks-hosted GPL'd software
Date: Mon, 15 Feb 2010 21:43:58 +0100

On Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 7:17 PM, Judd Storrs <address@hidden> wrote:
> 2010/2/15 Jaroslav Hajek <address@hidden>:
>> The problem is that you actually do not obtain a BSD-licensed source.
> Really? When I click on the license.txt file in MatlabCentral I see
> the BSD license. When I open the zip file I just downloaded I see the
> BSD license.
>> By downloading anything from the FX service, you agree to the ToS, so
>> you're bound by the additional restrictions therein.
> If I have the files who says I got them from FX or that I agreed to
> the ToS? I don't have an account there.

You can of course deny that, and it might be difficult to prove you
lying, but it's a lie.

> Even ignoring the fact that
> the use restriction is not part of the actual license, the ToS does
> not forbid redistribution under the terms of the BSD-license.

This is implicit under the copyright law. You can extend to third
parties only those rights that are granted to you, and only if the
license allows it. I gave you a quotation (with more or less accurate
translation) of the Czech law above, so what you're trying to suggest
is impossible at least in our country. If this is different under US
or any other country's law, I'd love to see other quotations.

> Mathworks can try to make it difficult to obtain the files from their
> site, they cannot simply relicense them. They are not a copyright
> holder and have no ownership claim to the files at all (exceptions for
> packages authored or possibly contributed substantively to by
> Mathworks employees).

So what? The software is provided to MathWorks by the copyright holder
under the BSD license. MathWorks provides it to you under a different
(more restricted) license. Where's the problem? Do you think this is
not legally possible?

> Ultimately it
> is the copyright holder that is distributing the files--and that
> always happens under their terms.

You obtain the code from MathWorks, who obtained it from the original
author - this is what is normally called a redistribution. I don't see
how any "ultimately" can play any role.

>> I don't see how
>> BSD (unlike GPL) explicitly forbids adding additional restrictions.
> The BSD isn't explicit about it because it's implicit from copyright
> law. If you're certain
> about the correctness of your opinion,

I'm not certain, but I at least have logical arguments.

> I have a task for you:
> 1) Download the the OpenBSD source tree.
> 2) Modify the headers of all the files to inject a use restriction
> that forbids use of alpha processors.
> 3) Publicly distribute your source.
> 4) Announce on address@hidden that you intend to sue the OpenBSD
> project for violation of your new restriction.

:D Come on, you must see that this is a pure nonsense. You
accidentally (or intentionally) omitted the important point
3.5) Make all OpenBSD contributors and hosting servers get their
OpenBSD sources from my public place.

Without this, I could not of course sue anybody, because I distributed
nothing to them. Under the copyright law, it *does* matter whom you
got the code from. I did not suggest that the MathWorks restriction
extends to the original authors' code. Of course it only applies to
sources downloaded from File Exchange. But it does apply, even if it
is unlikely that you will get into any trouble by ignoring it.

RNDr. Jaroslav Hajek, PhD
computing expert & GNU Octave developer
Aeronautical Research and Test Institute (VZLU)
Prague, Czech Republic

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